Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New column in your GNN papers ... and online now!

Check it out ...

Is Maziarz the all powerful Oz? Or just a straw man?

What do you think?

Who's pulling who?

I've long maintained that the entirety of the Republican Party in Niagara County is controlled by one man.

And seeing nearly all municipalities within Niagara County – and, of course, the county legislature itself - is controlled by Republicans, that one man essentially rules the entire county as though it were his own kingdom. Or so my theory goes.

I've simply heard too many stories from too many people saying that the good senator pulls all the strings for those stories not to be true.

I must admit, though, the stories do tend to pop up around election time. Not that I'm saying that's indicative of anything … it's just … very coincidental.

Two years ago, three different town supervisors came out heavy against State Senator George Maziarz, saying he had his fingers into everything. They practically ran their campaigns as though they were running against Maziarz. They all won.

And last year, it was Sheriff's Candidate Brian Grear claiming that Maziarz was was all-powerful. He even got Lockport Common Council President John Lombardi to back him up on his statement, calling on voters "to break the legacy of thuggery and intimidation" he attributed to Maziarz and Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek. Grear didn't fare nearly as well as the three supervisors.

And now it's election time again and the old “George is a tyrant” line comes out again.

This time the locale is North Tonawanda where Common Council candidate Dennis Barberio is alleging that GOP brass have played politics with the potential Super Walmart deal in town.

Barberio said last week that former Council President Brett Sommer had confided in him that Maziarz and Wojtaszek had met with Sommer over a year ago to discuss with him their intention of keeping Walmart from building in the city so long as Larry Soos remains mayor.

Sommer said someone had asked him to help delay the project, but declined to say if it was Maziarz and Wojtaszek. He also declined to say it wasn't.

Wojtaszek, meanwhile, patently denies he had any such conversation.

“The conversation never happened,” he said. “He’s bitter because he wasn’t endorsed by the local committee to run as alderman.”

And Barberio, of course, has his own reasons for making the allegations. He wants the seat Sommer is vacating. And the Democrat would do well to make the GOP brass look bad, right?

That's always the problem with the claims against the senator and the chairman. The people making the claims always seem to have something to gain.

Doesn't mean they're not true, but it sure gets my skepticism meter running.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

(Spending) Something for nothing ...

Imagine for a minute that you hired someone to do your grocery shopping. I know, a menial task that you can no doubt handle yourself, but humor me here. You hired someone to go to the store with a list and come back with the things you need to keep your family fed for the week.

Now imagine they didn't do it.

You'd be pretty upset, huh? I know I would.

To make matters worse, you look out your kitchen window to see the grocery store delivery van in your neighbor's driveway, unloading cold cuts, baked goods, canned food, and what looks like several years worth of prime rib and t-bones.


Oh, did I mention that you were paying $5,000 a month for this service? And that the neighbors got millions of dollars worth of groceries ... for free?

That's essentially the scenario as we found out this week that Niagara County has been left behind in a new upstate revitalization program, despite hiring a lobbying firm in May to secure funds from just such programs.

You may recall a couple stories back in May and June about Niagara County signing a $30,000 deal with a government relations firm called Capitol Public Strategies to secure money from the state and federal government for economic development projects within the county.

Of course, you might not recall it, because there has been no news from Capitol Public Strategies since their hiring. In fact, a search of Google News land precisely zero hits on the firm. None. Nothing. Nada. They've apparently done nothing newsworthy. Maybe ever. Oh, except for take our $5,000 a month for the last six months.

Meanwhile the state of New York, despite its current economic crisis, is handing out millions of dollars. Just not to us. In fact, $4.6 million was doled out to Western New York, including $500,000 for a Massachusetts manufacturer that is looking to relocate to Blasdell; $400,000 to rehabilitate an old warehouse in Buffalo; and $2.4 million for improvements at Buffalo’s Lakeside Commerce Park.

Better luck next time? That's basically the response of a spokesman for the governor, who said, “There are several projects in Niagara County that remain in consideration for round two.”

I hope you'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath while we wait.

It seems to me like the Niagara County Legislature has a history of spending money with little to no return. I've yet to see any tangible results from the $50,000 annually spent on the county's membership in the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise. And who can forget the $42 million tobacco settlement and how quickly that disappeared. Aside from sprinklers at the golf course, anybody remember where it went?

County Manager Greg Lewis said back in June that he expected something from the $30,000 the county is spending on Capitol Public Strategies. “We emphasized that we wanted action,” he said at the time.

Forget action. For $30,000, how about we expect results.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You win some. You lose some.

This week, I'll share more wisdom imparted to me by my father decades ago: You win some. You lose some.

Last week I discussed the glee the opposition party had over the United States' losing Olympics bid. This week it's winning that has people all riled up.

You would think based on the reaction of some of my friends that winning the Nobel Peace Prize was some sort of joke.

Facebook was atwitter with commentary from the left and right about the honor. A few of my favorites are below:

  • “This just in - The 2009 Pulitzer Prize has just been awarded to Barack Obama in the Fiction category. Although Obama does not plan to write the book until 2017, the prize committee felt that Obama's "intention" to write a book was sufficient enough grounds to award him the prize.” - G. A.
  • “Obama gets Nobel Prize...I did just as much as he has in terms of earning that hardware.” - T. G.
  • “I think Obama clearly deserves an ESPY award too. Let's face it. He threw the opening pitch in Chicago.” - N. L.

Clearly the thought was that the president had done nothing to deserve the honor bestowed upon him by the Nobel committee. And to be completely honest, I'm not so sure he has.

Let's face it, we're still at war in Iraq. Still at war in Afghanistan. Guantanamo Bay has a date for pending closure of January 22, 2010d, a full year after Obama took office ... and the attorney general says there's no way we'll meet that date.

So I'm found wondering to myself: Where's the peace? I mean this is the Nobel Peace Prize, is it not?

The committee said that they were awarding Obama for giving people hope for the possibility of peace. Specifically, “"for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Honestly, I think the committee awarded him for not being George W. Bush. I mean, Hitler would have worn the prize if he were the first American president following W. Some would say he is, of course.

Whether the president deserves the honor or not, however, he has had it bestowed upon him. Along with the $1.4 million that goes along with it.

Since the president himself said he doesn't feel he deserves the award, I would hope he would take the prize money and devote it to a cause of peace.


Thanks to the woman who emailed me last week, by the way. She said she had waited her whole life to respond to a column ... and she chose mine. Of course, she hated it, but ... you win some. You lose some.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Don't forget ...

You can read my column every Tuesday in the Tonawanda News ... and usually the Niagara Gazette. Here's tomorrow's column as a Wordle.

Wordle: You win some. You lose some.

By the way, I got hate mail last week. It's been far too long since I've had some good hate mail. This wasn't over the top or anything, but at least I know someone's reading it.

I am a 62 year old woman and this is the first time I have ever responded to a guest view in the Gazette.

Your article, The Victory of "stupidfreude", however, was so silly and biased that I just had to comment on it.

The ONLY legitimate sentence in your article was this one:

"with all that's going on in the world, a trip to Copenhagen to make a plea for the Olympics should have been very low on the list of the president's priorities".

The rest of the article was so off the mark that you should be embarrassed. The last line was especially goofy:

"Or maybe they just hate America".
Um, yeah, the last line was supposed to be goofy. But I digress.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Hey look, I made up a word!

One of the things I love about writing columns as opposed to being a reporter is the ability to make up words and phrases.

Today's new Lefflerism: Stupidfreude

Check it out, yo!

Success is not an option

“Schadenfreude” is a German word meaning taking joy in the misery of others. We all do it once in a while.

“Stupidfruede” is a word I just made up meaning looking like a complete idiot for taking joy in misery of others when that other person's failure negatively impacts you. I believe my father would have explained it as “cutting your nose off to spite your face.”

For the entirety of the Bush administration, the leaders of the Republican party accused the Democrats of rooting against America.

“Why do you hate America?” I can't tell you the number of times I heard that question as I suggested that starting World War III would not root out terrorism, but would only drag us down to their level.

I was told that anyone who opposes anything the president wants to do is unpatriotic and should “move to Canada” or some such nonsense.

Funny how the rules change with the election of a new president. And suddenly rooting against the president is not only not treasonous, it's downright American. Which is why the GOP is taking great satisfaction in America's loss.

I'm talking about Chicago's loss in its bid for the Olympics, of course.

Seemed like within minutes of the International Olympic Committee's announcement that the 2016 games would not be in Chicago, right wing pundits and elected officials alike were sending press releases and twittering with glee over President Barack Obama's great defeat.

Apparently, they have themselves so wrapped up in the concept of the “real America” versus the blue states, that they forgot that Chicago is technically still an American city.

Personally, I thought the president's mission to bring the Olympics to Chicago was misguided at best. With all that's going on in the world, a trip to Copenhagen to make a plea for the Olympics should have been very low of the list of the president's priorities.

While the GOP piled on over Obama's loss, he spun the loss in his own direction, saying it is “always a worthwhile endeavor” to promote the United States in any way, adding “You can play a great game and still not win.”

That sounds a lot like “it's not whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game.” Words winners never say.

True, Obama could have used some good news. The same morning we lost the Olympic bid, unemployment figures came out, showing a steep rise.

There was a very telling word in that last sentence. “We.” For it was America who lost the bid for the Olympics. Not Barack Obama.

Of course, some people seem to believe that anything that makes “the other guys” look bad is good for them. It's one of the inherent problems in the two-party system.

The whole concept of a two-party system is that anyone who isn't your friend is your enemy. If someone has a different agenda than you, they must be stopped at all costs.

Heaven forbid anyone admit that both the Democrats and the Republicans simply have different ways of doing things.

I'll admit it. Republicans and Democrats simply have different ways of hording power and paying off their base.

And the Olympics in Chicago would have been a huge payoff for Obama's base. Imagine the contracts and kickbacks that would have gone to some of the president's biggest supporters in one of the most corrupt political city's in America.

Maybe that's why the GOP opposed the Olympics in Chicago. Maybe they didn't want to see Obama's supporters get fat.

Or maybe they just hate America.